There is no I in “team.” Perhaps that is why Nikki Haley has little use for teamwork.
Since her election as the first female governor of South Carolina, Haley has made her image into one of the GOP’s most recognizable. She was endorsed by Sarah Palin before the election, and her goal seems to be to promote herself in such a way that the two are viewed as contemporaries, though Haley has yet to gain Palin’s momentum. Publicity has been the name of the game, with fashion shoots, book tours, and interviews with the cast of “The View.”
But the magazines are long out of circulation, the book tour is done, and Haley has returned to Columbia to discover what the people of South Carolina expect out of their governor: governance. And that’s where things begin to get problematic.
The contentious relationship between the executive and the legislative branch is nothing new. Every president struggles to reconcile his own views with those of his Congress. Even when one party seemingly has control over both houses, as Obama did prior to the midterm elections, the legislative process can still be strenuous and unwieldy.
What is less common is a Congress’ ability to unite against the executive branch. Early in July, Gov. Haley vetoed $67 million of a $6.7 billion spending program for the state. Among those vetoes were $10 million for teachers’ pay raises, $3.9 million for the arts commission, and over $400,000 for non-profit rape crisis centers. While a large portion of the vetoes passed muster, the cuts to these programs in particular resulted in very vocal criticism, and the legislature took note. Haley’s vetoes were rejected unanimously by both parties. Haley, for her part, has stood by her vetoes.
More recently, Governor Haley has raised the ire of a number of workers and politicians over insurance. She recently requested the Budget and Control Board raise the price of health insurance for state workers, despite a pledge last month that the prices would stay put. This decision has already been criticized by the state legislature’s two top Republicans, and there are concerns over state workers filing a class-action lawsuit, which the state is certain to lose.
Said Haley about the decision: “Ask anybody in the private sector if they get the benefits that state employees get because they don’t. … And ask anyone in the private sector if they have the extra money to pay for state employees to have benefits. They don’t.” It would appear that Haley’s solution to private sector employees being angry is to make the public sector feel equally frustrated with insurance costs.
But while Democrats, many Republicans and state workers are upset, there is one group that is pleased with her defiance: tea party conservatives. The tea party approach to budgeting is analogous to slash-and-burn foresting: get rid of everything and build back from nothing. In the words of Don Weaver, health insurance for state employees is an opulent privilege: “State employees need to be glad they still have health insurance.”
Regardless of whether one considers health care a right or a privilege, the facts are that Haley’s move could have a seriously adverse effect on her during the election. The current president pro tempore of the S.C. Senate is a Republican. Senator John Courson represents Richland County, which has a very high population of state workers, and they may not be feeling too charitable towards the GOP come November.
The writer lives in Myrtle Beach.